The USA men’s basketball team lost to perennial European power Lithuania at the FIBA World Championships, but still advanced to the quarterfinals and qualified for the Olympics with a 4-1 record.
Lithuania, led by NBA veteran Jonas Valanciunas but without All-NBA 7-footer Domantas Sabonis, upset the USA 110-104 in Manila on Sunday to take first place in the group.
Both teams had already qualified for the quarter-finals last week, making this group stage final purely for seeding purposes. The USA qualified for the Olympics as one of the top two American teams at the World Championships.
“It doesn’t take away the pain for us from the loss we had tonight, but it’s a good thing for USA basketball,” USA head coach Steve Kerr said of qualifying for Paris. “To be honest, I’m not worried about the Olympics. I’m worried about that. We want to win the World Cup.”
FIBA World Cup: Schedule, results
The USA, second in the group, will take on the other group winners, Italy, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
Lithuania led 31-12 after the first quarter, two days after Montenegro played the USA just before the Americans pulled away to win by 12.
“I don’t feel like we’re going to disappoint,” Kerr said. “They just punched us in the mouth. They took every shot immediately. They executed. I don’t think it was a case of us not being ready. I think it was a case of them playing a perfect first quarter and we understood how hard we were going to have to play.”
Lithuania outrebounded the USA 43-27 and made 14 of 25 3-pointers, surpassing Anthony Edwards’ game-high 35 points.
“I hate losing,” Kerr said. “I probably won’t sleep much tonight, but we had to feel it to get better. We had to react the way we did. We have to start the next game the way we started the second half. We can’t relax into the game at all.”
The U.S. has now lost at least one game in three straight global tournaments, following two losses at the 2019 World Cup (en route to a program-worst seventh-place finish) and a group-stage loss at the Tokyo Olympics (en route to a fourth straight gold).
Previously, the US went undefeated to the Olympic or world titles in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
USA Roster for this World Cup, it includes zero players with previous Olympic or World Championship experience and no players who are not members of the All-NBA team.
Lithuania reached the quarter-finals of seven consecutive Olympics between 1992 and 2016 (with bronze medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000) before failing to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
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